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Interesting Facts

 

Who is Habidabad?

Lyle Conway and Aughra

   Aughra, the astronomer/scientist who teaches Jen the true nature of his quest, is one of the most colorful and complex puppet characters  in the film, outside of the Chamberlain Skeksis, and is easily the most expressive and dynamic as performed by Frank Oz.  Originally the character was to have been a masculine creature called Habidabad, more animal-like with crab pincers, a high forehead and whiskers.  "I think she became a woman to add more feminine interest to the film," said Lyle Conway, sculptor of Aughra and the Skeksis.  "She also grew horns."

   © 1983 by Frederick S. Clarke, CINEFANTASTIQUE®

The name originated from "Habeetabat" which was found in Jim Henson's original treatment of the film.

 

Original Names:

Aughra - Habeetabat, Habidabad

Jen - Jun, Hahn

Kira - Dee, Dee-ari-guenesta-si, De, She, Dee-ari, Deeleecy

UrRu - Oo-urs, Badas (Ooor-cle, Ooor-kleh, Ooor-zay, Ooor-klih, Ooor-nee, Ooor-neh, Oo-ur-neh, Ooor-zee)

Skeksis - Skekses, Reptus, Karackt, Skek-sis (Skek-nik, Skek-kaght, Skek-ck, Skek-tk, Skek-skok), SK

UrSkeks - Oor-skeks

Gelflings - Gelflins, Gelf-ling

Garthim - Garthem, Gar-them, Gar-he

Fizzgig - Fizgig

Crystal Chamber - BA-KA-KA

 

Jen's Flute:

    The sound of Jen's flute was actually made with a double recorder-like instrument.  It's called a double-flageolet, an English Regency instrument acquired for the film because of its characteristic capability of simultaneously sounding two independent pitches.

 

Aughra's Voice:

   Aughra's voice was originally spoken by Frank Oz.  It sounded a lot like Grover or Yoda.  To add lightness and humor to the character of Aughra, Henson brought in actress Billie Whitlaw to re-record the dialogue with a new emphasis.

 

Fraggles?

   There was  a race of underground dwellers that were never used  in the film.  I asked Brian and Wendy Froud about these creatures.  Wendy said they were miners.  Brian told me that Jim Henson used the idea to create "Fraggle Rock."

    "The four races [Skeksis, Gelfling, Pod People and Mystics] sort of evolved straight away.  It was very much a multi-layered world, with creatures that dominate other creatures in a kind of pyramid arrangement.  So, originally, there were more creatures in the world than we eventually had in the film.  There was a whole other race of beings, for instance, which lived below ground." - Brian Froud

    © STARLOG/January 1983

 

Podlings and Potatoes:

    "Then, we came to the other races, like the Pod People.  We felt that they were physically smaller--dwarfish, if you like.  In fact, we did start off calling them the Potato People.  We wanted to make them potatoes.  So they'd have potato heads with eyes like potatoes.  Some would have three or four eyes in various places across their head; we felt that their eyes would move across their head during their lifetime.  But, the danger is becoming too grotesque.  It was a funny idea, but we couldn't get it to work.  In fact, we tried it, but there was nothing to relate to.  In the end, you do need the noses, you do need the eyes . . . in the center.  So, we had to come back to that." - Brian Froud

    © STARLOG/January 1983

 

How many Landstriders are in the film?

   It's hard to tell with the editing of the movie, but there are four Landstriders in the film.  The credits only list three puppeteers.  The baby Landstrider was performed by Kiran Shah who also doubled for Jen.

 

The Evolution of the Landstriders:

Click the image to view more storyboards of the Leapers!

    Almost all of the races and individual characters evolved, to some extent, in a similar fashion [to the Podlings].  For some creatures, Froud even developed an evolutionary ancestry.  "The Landstrider," he explains, "used to be a land spider, and has gone through various stages [of evolution]."

    © STARLOG/January 1983

    " . . . we thought we might do something that jumped up into a glide," Froud goes on, "and we came up with a large, insect-like creature with eight legs.  It worked in some ways but not in others."

    © theatre crafts /January 1983

 

Four-Fingered Skeksis:

    The movements of the Skeksis's claw-like hands were modeled on those of the four-fingered human hand of Dick Smith, the wizard responsible for special makeup effects in The Exorcist and Altered States.  He trained the Henson group for a few weeks in the use of foam latex.

    The manipulative skills of Dick Smith, who lost a finger in a film set mishap over a decade ago, were studied by the engineers of the Skeksis's cable controlled four digit hands.

    © theatre crafts /January 1983

 

Farscape:

On the episode of FARSCAPE called "Out of Their Minds" there is a creature designed after the Skeksis.

    [ HALOSIANS ]With benefit of hindsight, Dave Elsey (creative supervisor) admits that he probably wouldn't attempt anything as complicated as the Halosians again on a television schedule.  "We were asked to design very bird-like characters.  We thought this would be a great time to pay homage to Jim Henson and The Dark Crystal, so we designed creatures like the Skeksis," he says, referring to the creatures in the 1983 movie.  "They're actually not very similar -- if you put them together, they're a completely different size.  I hope the Halosians never come back!  The worst thing about them was that I was very pleased with them in the workshop.  You can do something in the workshop that looks great and works fantastically well.  However, the moment it's on set and you have people puppeteering things, and they're pointing a camera at it, and trying to get it into impossible positions that it can't function properly in, it suddenly doesn't look as good."

© FARSCAPE:  The Illustrated Season 2 Companion

The Skeksis were mentioned on the episode of FARSCAPE called "Thanks For Sharing."  Crichton was naming different aggressive bad guys and the Skeksis were one of them.

Crichton: Who did you piss off this time?

Crais:
Talyn and I were not the aggressors.

Crichton:
Of course not. You never are. So, who was it? The "Plokavoids," the Skeksis, the Big Bad Wolf?

Crais:
The Peacekeepers. They want Talyn back.

On the episode of FARSCAPE called "Incubator" there was a space pod that Scorpius's Sebacean mother was living on. It had a floor plan very similar to that of the Crystal Chamber (a circle of boxed symbols with light coming from underneath).

 

Filming Format:

   The film was shot in the anamorphic Panavision format (1:2.35) to present the background as powerfully as possible.  Oswald Morris shot on Eastman 5247 stock (instead of experimenting with a Fuji film), because he knew its capabilities.

 

Jim Henson's Struggle for a Christmas Release:

   Jim Henson was only one day away from signing a deal in September '82 to buy back THE DARK CRYSTAL from its financier, Associated Communications Corporation (ACC).  The deal fell through when company head Robert Holmes A'Court personally decided not to sell.

   Henson, creator of the Muppets, is reluctant to discuss the behind-the-scenes financial maneuvering that saved his current brainchild from certain obscurity.  Only weeks earlier, ensconced in a comfortable suite at Chicago's Hyatt Regency for a presentation of THE DARK CRYSTAL to the World Science Fiction Convention, Henson bent over a Matterhorn-sized confection of ice cream piled high with strawberries and whipped topping that looked like a fantasy straight out of THE MUPPET MOVIE.  "I don't think we want that information to get out," he said in a voice that is recognizably Kermit the Frog's, only octaves lower.

   Henson refers to his personal intervention, to the tune of $2 million, to save THE DARK CRYSTAL from previously scheduled summer openings that would have been disastrous.  "Universal didn't have the theaters in June and they were going to release it at the end of July or August," said Henson.  "I thought that was just a terrible time for the film.  That was the main reason I delayed it."

   Universal agreed with Henson's bleak assessment of prospects for THE DARK CRYSTAL if released during the summer, but ACC insisted on the planned summer openings even if prime playdates were unavailable.  ACC, a company deep into dept and reorganization under new management, was adamant about seeing a return on its $26 million investment in the picture at the earliest date, whatever the repercussions.  ACC agreed to postpone the release date only after Henson intervened to put up the $2 million in additional interest incurred on their investment by delaying until December 17.  And Henson began negotiations to buy back the film.

   "If I purchase the film from ACC, the fact that I agreed to purchase the interest cost goes out the window," said Henson.  "It would be my film at that point."  Henson had originally considered financing the film, but couldn't, even with the vast resources of his worldwide Muppet empire.

   "I don't think they're doing me a favor by going to the movie," said Henson.  "It's not like Coppola.  There's always these big stories that he's mortgaging his house to get APOCALYSE NOW together.  I don't want that kind of publicity."

   The point, however, is much the same.  After nearly seven years of conceiving, preparing and filming THE DARK CRYSTAL, Henson was prepared to put his personal fortune at stake to see his unconventional project reach audiences as it was intended.  It was perhaps that kind of conviction that convinced ACC not to sell.

   © 1983 by Frederick S. Clarke, CINEFANTASTIQUE®

 

How did a Skeksis break the Crystal?

   The urSkeks used the power of the Crystal to try and purify themselves.  They ended up splitting into two beings, the Skeksis and the urRu.  The Skeksis began to quarrel and during their fight one of them struck the Crystal.  A shard broke off and flew out through the portal of the Castle and onto the mountain side.

 

Didn't the Crystal Bat see both Jen and Kira?

   In the scene when Kira strikes down a Crystal Bat into the river, the Crystal Bat gets up and watches them as they continue to float along down the Black River.  In both the novel and the comic book the Skeksis see the image of Jen and Kira in the beetle shell boat and discover that there are actually two Gelflings.  When skekSil, the Chamberlain, presents Kira to skekUng, the Garthim-Master/Emperor, he inquires about Jen (the other Gelfling).  SkekSil takes skekUng to the sewers where he has left Jen unconscious only to discover that he is gone.  SkekUng becomes very angry.  This simple fact was overlooked and not included in the film.

 

Spider-man?

   There is a Spider-man comic dated March of 1973 which contains a story that involves dark crystals on different planets that can open worm-holes or the space-time continuum (ex. A Wrinkle In Time, Dune, Stargate, Contact, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Farscape).  This is the same way that the urSkeks traveled to Thra using the light of a Great Conjunction and the Crystal (these crystals also exist on different planets).  Ten years later Marvel created the official adaptation of The Dark Crystal.  If you look at the cover of #2 you will see the Spider-man emblem on the bottom left corner.  I wonder if Marvel did this on purpose!!!

 

Can a film popular in the children's market also appeal to adults?

    "The world of The Dark Crystal is layered.  There are different levels of meaning.  While the film is easily understood by children, there should be more than enough there to stimulate an adult." -Jim Henson

    "Good and Evil are seen very distinctly at first.  But then they overlap in ways that we hope are fairly subtle.  The image of the monster, Skeksis, which in another film might be saved for a shock at the end, is seen throughout The Dark Crystal -- you get somewhat used to it, as you do to an ever-present evil in real life.  And good, the film suggests, is sometimes ineffectual -- you can see that in the way Jen and Kira move physically.  I created the world of The Dark Crystal not for a specific audience but for myself.  Which, I think, means that anyone can enjoy it." -Brian Froud

 

Science Fiction vs. Fantasy:

   Stereotyping the Genre

    Fantasy stories are making something of a comeback, as producers realize that "fantasy" doesn't necessarily mean "kiddie show time."

   "E.T. is a case in point," smiles Kurtz. "Several people read it and turned it down, because they thought it was only for little kids. They saw a script in which the principal characters were not only an alien, but three children. The immediate reaction from most studio executives would be: "Well, there's no adult main character, therefore, there's no one for an adult, sophisticated audience to identify with, and therefore, they won't like it.' The same thing happened with Star Wars.

   "Many people who say that they don't like science fiction, went to see Star Wars because their children took them, and then, found out that they enjoyed it. Fantasy and science fiction must overcome a lot of negative prejudice.

   "But Star Wars worked negatively, in a way, on the industry. Suddenly, everyone wanted to make a picture just like it. So, what we saw were movies with spaceships and robots. Most of them weren't very good. The producers had a very narrow view: science fiction is spaceships and robots.

   "I know when Warner Brothers was going to do Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, they had several scripts. Harlan Ellison did one which was quite good. I read it. It combined several of the short stories into one master story. But Warners kept saying they wanted laser gunfights; I, Robot is not that kind of science-fiction story. They had narrowed their focus on just what science fiction should be.

   "That happened a lot with fantasy, too. People say that Snow White and Sl eeping Beauty are fantasy stories--and they are, fairy tales--and that fantasy stories are only for little kids. Actually, there's quite a large adult audience for the early Disney animated work, because they are superbly produced and adults enjoy the stories as much as children do.

   "But the field of fantasy is very broad. Fantasy uses rich characters. The genre had great story potential and power. You can deal with characters in situations which could not possibly occur in real life, though they concern real-life problems."

   The same narrow-mindedness which has dogged science-fiction and fantasy film seems to be tagged to different artistic mediums as well: live-action films are for adults; animated films, for children; puppets, for infants.

   Producers forget that audiences are moved by a story's dramatic power, not necessarily by the medium chosen for its presentation. Each medium has its own potential for magic, and all movies are magic.

   Animated films are not an inferior storytelling medium, just because the networks grind out endless Saturday morning schlock for the kiddies. The Disney empire exists today because of the great power of the animated film. Puppets face the same prejudice.

   "You say 'puppets' and people think of the fellow who comes to a child's birthday party and puts on a show," Kurtz explains. "The art of puppetry has a great history. In Japan, for instance, they do really marvelous things with puppets in the theater. Puppetry techniques were well-received in both E .T. and The Empire Strikes Back."

   Kurtz seems confident that the story of The Dark Crystal is powerful enough to break through this prejudice blockade in the same way that Star Wars broke down similar barriers. Audiences have learned that different media offer their own magic potential and one is not necessarily "better" than the other. Once such prejudices are swept away, an audience's willing suspension of disbelief can transport them into realms unknown.

   "I've always had a great love for fantasy and science fiction," admits Kurtz. "I enjoyed it, both in film and in literature, when I was growing up. Also, my generation is part of the first space generation--beginning with George Pal's Destination Moon in 1949 right up to seeing man land on the moon.

   As far as fantasy goes, I think the cinema is an ideal medium for presentation of fantasy material--it's a way of visualizing something that's really impossible to see in real like."

   It's easy with live-action films. Everyone knows that those people up there on the screen are only actors getting paid for saying lines on a cardboard set. Animated films don't show us real people, but paint on celluloid. And, of course, Gary Kurtz hasn't gone to Central Casting to hire a pair of out-of-work Gelflings. Those concerns are irrelevant; what's important is that this particular medium has been selected because it provides the most exciting, captivating, and fascinating means of telling a timeless tale. The Dark Crystal represents a landmark achievement for a type of film and storytelling medium whose enormous potential has been largely ignored in years past.

    © STARLOG photo guidebook SPECIAL EFFECTS Vol.4

 

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